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Not your babe: the dangers of street harassment

Being a teenage girl is not exactly a walk in the park. Truthfully, it is not really a pleasant walk anywhere. For decades, women have unjustly been made victims of “catcalling” from shockingly early ages. 

Catcalling, or the action of whistling, shouting, or commenting of a sexual nature to a woman passing by, is a serious issue that a majority of girls do not even realize is happening to them or their friends. 

Catcalling is the root of street harassment. This sort of intimidating behavior can include anything from uncomfortable stares, looking at a female up and down and checking her out as she walks by, to something as vulgar and aggressive as sexual assault or rape. 

According to a survey conducted on Twitter, nearly 90% of 10,000 girls have experienced some sort of discomfort because of unnecessary comments or gestures made by strangers. 63% of those agreed that following rejection, the perpetrator began insulting, stalking, or acting violently towards the victim. 

“I would say the most extreme case was when I was shopping with some friends in Santa Monica,” stated Leeza Lester, 18, when discussing an experience with catcalling. “These really obnoxious looking guys pulled up next to us on the street in this red convertible car. They noticed us and began pointing in our direction and saying things like, ‘Hey ladies, what’s up?'” 

Her initial response to the remarks was along the lines of “Okay, yeah, sorry, not interested.” 

All of a sudden they started cursing at Lester and her small group of all-female friends. Not only were they using vulgar language, but they began threatening them and demanding that they get into their car or that they would force them to.

“All I could think of was, ‘No way, this is could not happening to me right now, especially in broad daylight,'” she added.

Studies have shown that events occurring like this not only happen daily but also are happening to the majority of women today and more so to the most vulnerable groups of them. The ages that are most frequently catcalled are young, adolescent girls ranging from 11 to 17 years old. 

Some public opinions have attempted to justify these actions by making statements such as, “Wouldn’t it be flattering to be noticed for your beauty,” “You should consider it a compliment,” or “Well, boys will be boys.” 

It is not flattering to be called “baby girl” by an unknown man standing on the sidewalk, twice the girl’s age. 

So where does this sort of offensive behavior stem from? The statement made that it simply is how men are by nature is completely false. In a civil society, all people should be able to control their urges or impulses made toward the opposite sex. 

Campaigns like “WomenSpeak” and organizations such as “Hollaback” are available to ignite public conversation about the dangers of harassment. 

Hollaback serves as a web blog for sharing stories and experiences of street harassment by women all around the world. They believe in creating a better future where these sorts of happenings are not tolerated or considered normal and where men and women can enjoy equal access to public spaces. 

Spreading awareness and refusing to remain silent about the disrespect and the dangers of catcalling is the first step toward change. If all people were to realize that the woman being called “sexy” by a stranger on the street is someone’s daughter, mother, or sister, it could be better put into perspective. 

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